INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday night kicked off what will become a series of hate crime community discussions.
They are an extension of the work being done already with the Marion County Hate Crimes Hotline, which was created in August.
The prosecutor said, with the county’s diverse population, it’s time to get ahead of these conversations about hate crimes.
MOTW Coffee and Pastries is on Indianapolis’s west side, an area of the city known for its diversity in business and culture. That’s part of the reason two friends, Kate Breen and Megan Zurawicz, makes it a point to come to the coffee shop west of Lafayette Road on West 38th Street.
MOTW in the shop’s name stands for Muslims of the World. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s unique,’ and I actually also thought that (having Muslims in the name) is kind of brave because of the way things are you know today,” Breen said.
The shop on Tuesday night hosted the first discussion designed to focus on hate crimes in the Muslim community.
Breen has her friend Zurawicz to thank for even knowing about the place. She lives only a couple blocks away and said this is the epitome of what a community business looks like.
“When I moved to Indianapolis I chose this neighborhood specifically for its diversity because it is something that I cherish,” she said.
Breen appreciates what the county prosecutor is doing. “We need more of why we are the same, what makes us the same rather than what makes us different,” she said.
Coffee and pastries is in the shop’s name, but it’s more of a backdrop to what really matters. The pictures on the wall tell stories about Muslim persecution around the world, setting the tone for a much-needed discussion on hate crimes against Indianapolis Muslim communities.
“It’s certainly time that Indiana join the rest of the country in recognizing that this is a problem, and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed correctly,” Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said.
Mears said 45 states have hate crime laws on the books, but Indiana is not one of them. When police in Indiana are called to a scene it’s never for an actual hate crime.
“What we can do is argue for a statutory aggravated, meaning a judge can impose a harsher penalties then they otherwise would,” Mears said. “But, there’s not a standalone crime and that really impedes law enforcement’s ability to do an investigation because they don’t have a standalone crime to investigate.”
He said when dealing with hate it’s important to empower victims.